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3 characteristics of leaders with executive presence

Executive presence is a quality every leader should seek to cultivate. Joel Garfinkle offers three qualities leaders should seek to embody.

4 min read


executive presence

Leaders with executive presence exude a certain magnetism that grabs people’s attention. People lean in and want to listen to them.

Having this presence means radiating confidence in all of your interactions. It means communicating with conviction and clarity, avoiding ambiguity. And it means being a bold and decisive decision-maker and coming across as professional and competent. 


People with executive presence have a reputation for making things happen. They’re admired for exemplary leadership and respected as an authority. They earn people’s respect — not because they demand it, but because they command it. 

To cultivate executive presence, you need to look closely at how you show up at work, how you speak and how you make decisions.

3 definitions that describe a leader with executive presence

1. Telegraphing that you’re in charge

People with executive presence often come across as being in charge even when they’re not the official leader. If working on a project with their boss’s boss, their power and conviction makes it seem like they’re at least a peer — and possibly the leader of the initiative. It’s like when a supporting actor outshines the person with the lead role and gets all the praise in the reviews of the film. These people have the It factor that keeps all eyes on them, even if they’re not the loudest ones in the room. Through all of their words and actions, they telegraph that they’re in charge, meaning they’re in the know, self-possessed and poised to lead the team to success.

Take a close look at your ability to radiate that aura of authority.

  • Do you speak decisively when announcing a decision?
  • When an opportunity arises to show leadership, do you step up to the plate without hesitation, owning the role? 
  • Do you share a clear rationale for your ideas, so you immediately gain buy-in?
  • Are you highly engaging in your speech, exuding a charisma that draws others to listen to you?

Practice seizing the opportunity to demonstrate your leadership in both large and small ways throughout your daily work. Rather than just going through your day in the same way you always do, ask yourself, “How does a leader with executive presence approach this situation?” 

2. Winning the confidence of those around you

Employees throughout your company need to see you as a leader they believe in. A leader they respect. A leader with credibility. A leader who inspires confidence and whom others feel confident around. This is executive presence in action.

If you want to lead others, you can’t just go through your daily work without an awareness of how every action and interaction comes across to them. How do they experience you? Do they view you as confident, bold, charismatic, in command and radiating gravitas? 

3. Painting a picture of yourself as a compelling force inside your organization

To shine as a leader with executive presence, you need to become known as someone who influences outcomes, contributes to major decisions and drives change. Don’t wait for someone to bestow a certain title on you. Instead, leverage your influence now to positively shape outcomes. As you demonstrate your ability to influence others for the good of the organization, your colleagues, subordinates and superiors will rely on your strength and wisdom. 

You can’t realize your full potential as a leader without executive presence. As you rise up in your organization, executive presence becomes more and more critical. The higher the stakes, the more you need that power and presence.


The above is an excerpt from “Executive Presence: Step Into Your Power, Convey Confidence, & Lead With Conviction” by Joel Garfinkle, published by JAG Press.

Joel Garfinkle is recognized as one of the top 50 coaches in the U.S. He provides executive coaching to help companies build a pipeline of leaders who can excel at executive presence. Joel is the author of 11 books, including Executive Presence. Subscribe to his Fulfillment at Work Newsletter which is delivered to over 10,000 people. You can view his video library of over 150+ easily actionable 2-minute inspirational video clips by subscribing to his YouTube Channel.

Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own.


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